GAO: Plans for VA's system need details

The Veterans Affairs Department should create more detailed information for its plans for a system to manage financial data and essential assets to avoid the problems that led to the VA scrapping its previous accounting modernization effort, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.

The Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise (FLITE) program would standardize VA’s work processes and modernize the information technology that supports financial and logistics management, the VA has said. The FLITE program replaces its failed Core Financial and Logistics System, which the VA terminated in 2004 after it had spent $342 million on the project.

The VA should resolve all issues from CoreFLS to minimize the risk to successfully implementing FLITE, GAO said in its Sept. 22 report.

The department has completed numerous planning documents that represent a sound start for the FLITE initiative, but some still lack precise information to guide its efforts, GAO said.

“Without such specificity and details, the department faces the risk that FLITE may not be effectively managed and could incur schedule slippages and cost increases that jeopardize meeting its intended goals,” said Valerie Melvin, director of GAO’s human capital and management information systems issues.

The VA, which plans to implement FLITE in fiscal 2009, has said that it anticipates that the modernized system will eliminate its major financial weaknesses.

The VA program office has completed initial planning and requirements development activities, she said. Actual system development has not begun, and the program has experienced minor schedule delays in its planned acquisition tasks, Melvin said.

The VA has involved business and technical executives in FLITE’s oversight, which increases the likelihood that the agency will implement the program at an acceptable cost and within reasonable and expected time frames, she said.

“Sustaining this executive-level involvement and control is essential,” Melvin said

CoreFLS did not operate correctly, resulting in postponed surgeries because equipment was not available.

The VA has developed the FLITE program by incorporating recommendations from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which evaluated the department’s financial environment after the failure of CoreFLS.

In response, Gordon Mansfield, VA's deputy secretary, said of 131 findings that directly relate to the FLITE program, VA has addressed 123 and will complete the eight remaining corrective actions by Sept. 30.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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